Ok, ready to head home. We checked out of the Hilton and headed to the airport. Worked our way through Aruban and US customs and immigration, found a club in which to pass the time before our flight, easy as can be. Now we’re drifting toward our boarding time, and nothing seems to be happening. Then eight…EIGHT gate agents arrive at our gate. This can’t be good. Waiting, waiting, and then it wasn’t good. Flight cancelled. Not delayed, but cancelled. Stuck in Aruba until the flight we were rebooked onto….at 3pm the next day. Oh.Shit.
Here comes the thundering herd of irate passengers demanding answers. In order to dodge this shitshow I jump on my phone, pull up the Marriott app, and quickly book a room. Now we just have to leave the airport, catch a cab, and deal with this another day. Except we can’t get out. There’s no exit, no way out without an escort to circumvent customs and immigration. We’re stuck, and apparently stuck until all of the passengers on our flight are rebooked and accommodations are made for our unexpected overnight stay. So we wait. And wait. And wait. In a stroke of wonderous luck we’re approached by two other passengers. We quickly discover that we were high school classmates, and the time stuck in the airport is much better. Then comes more good news. Families will be accommodated at the Renaissance Hotel. Wait, that’s where I just booked a room. No, no, no. But wait, there’s more. Couples have been accommodated at the Ritz Carlton. Now THIS is a winning proposition! Now to get out of the airport….
We are finally escorted out with another couple and our new friends, as we are all taking our own transportation to the hotel, so as to beat the bus crowd to check in. We bid our new friends adieu and we’re off to the Ritz. Now my new bride was talking about wanting to try the Ritz, and I just inadvertently delivered. Score one for me!
We arrived well before the bus of other passengers, quickly checked in, asked Sanjay to please cancel my other reservation at the Renaissance, and it was off to our room to shower, change and figure out dinner. Our new friends recommended BLT at the Ritz. We were stuck for an extra night (stuck at the Ritz, I know, such a brat thing to say), hungry, and had the generous meal allowance from United to spend ($20 each…at the Ritz. So a glass of water, no ice?). Off we went to BLT.
It was somewhat quiet, but that was likely because the bus load of other passengers were still checking in (we heard some waited hours for a room. So glad we took a cab!) We decided to take a seat at the bar and figure out how much steak we were going to consume. We were immediately greeted by Luisa, and then by Legino, Two skilled bartenders who were at the centerpiece of this unexpected culinary adventure. Where to start? Well, a cocktail of course! For my bride a Four Petal Flower (a take on the Aperol Spritz that we grew to love in Italy) and for my a Bulleit Old Fashioned. Legino went right to work, like an artist with the libations. The Four Petal Flower was expertly mixed and served with a twist of lemon. The Old Fashioned, another perfection. Not too sweet, just the right amount of bitters, plenty of bourbon. Most importantly, no goddamn club soda in it! God help the poor bastard who adds that to my Old Fashioned.
Moving on. We didn’t just come here to drink, but were hankering for some dinner. We were greeted first by a complimentary ramekin or duck liver mousse with a cherry glaze and crostini. We’re not ones to pass up such a treat, so we made relatively short work of it. We then inspected the three menus for our options. Starters came easy. My bride opted for the wedge salad, because much like a good cocktail, she’s not passing up a wedge salad. I opted for the equally healthy thick cut bacon. We each chose the 8oz. Filet (one medium rare, one blue) with a side of lobster Mac and cheese and the Brussels sprouts with bacon and honey. Yes, we were all in on dinner.
Following the mousse was a presentation of two popovers with butter and a small card including the recipe. What a classy touch. They were delightful, because of course we weren’t going to let them wait. Fluffy inside, crusty outside, just like my sweetheart makes, except she didn’t have to work at it. Next up, salad and bacon. The salad looked fine (I’m no blue cheese fan, so not my thing), and my bride described it a perfectly dressed. Not too much dressing like is the norm for a wedge, and just the right amount of accoutrements. Now as for the bacon, is there ever a wrong way to receive a plate of bacon? The answer is no. Three thick slices dressed with what tasted like a chimichuri, true pork heaven. By this time we had finished our cocktails and it was on to wine, a Malbec as I recall (shocking).
We conversed with our neighbors, a couple from Long Island, and watched some of the others from our cancelled flight shuffle in. We were in heaven. We realized that when we first walked in the restaurant was somewhat cold, but we never noticed it again after we were seated, as the service and comradere kept us warm. We talked with Legino about the resort prior to the arrival of our entrees. And what an arrival it was. Two plates, stark white, were placed before us. They were followed by two cast iron crocks, each containing our steaks, presented with a pat of herb butter and a sprig of rosemary on top. Then another smaller crock with the Brussels sprouts, dressed with honey and cubes of bacon. Finally the bowl of lobster Mac and cheese. In typical fashion we dueled with our forks as we each found large chunks of lobster, and there was plenty to go around. The sprouts also delightful, and in such a decadent meal, a welcome glimmer of health. The steaks though, divine. Perfectly cooked, tender, juicy, and the herb butter was just enough to accompany it. Clean plates abound yet again.
Now that was the food, as we were too full for desert (except for the chocolate caramel brownie bite that we gladly consumed. Beyond the food was the service. Now, it’s an old adage that you get what you pay for, but this is no truer than at the Ritz. We were greeted by name by everyone on the restaurant. Everyone was engaging, and we truly wanted for nothing. But additionally, we developed a relationship with the staff. We joked, we laughed, we discussed life, family, food, anything that came to mind. We also were witness to a show. Watching Legino mix cocktails was much like watching a sculptor mold his clay. His attention to detail and he’s performance was above reproach. His free pour was brilliant, his handling of the ingredients,supurb. He rubbed and clapped the mint for a mojito like it was a ritual, sliced and positioned the fresh jalapeño for margaritas like a pro. With each new concoction there was a copper shaker manipulated overhead, and a glass with a small amount of each for us to try. It was masterful.
We left after several hours and walked the property. We realized that we had sat and continued the conversation with our neighbors and the staff long after we had finished eating. This is the experience you want, the reason such luxurious places exist. It was an unexpected extra night on our honeymoon, but the best popover stopover we’ve had.